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When the Media is the Mess

Who out there doesn’t have a little CD, DVD, magazine, newspaper or book clutter? Media clutter is something that shows up in every home I visit and is something I have to watch out for myself. What is it about having to “own” our favorite movies? And why do magazines call out to us on our way to the checkout counter? These purchases muck up our budgets as well as our living rooms and cupboards. What’s the answer?

Libraries

I so admire my friends who save money on books and other media by using the library. The drawback having to wait for the new releases and popular books to become available, but the benefits are great. For older books that I’d like to read, I’m going to start using the library. For books I collect, like those of my favorite authors or relating to my profession, I’ll buy a hard copy. This will cut my book buying and book clutter down pretty significantly.

E-readers

The other option to reduce clutter is to download books to an e-reader. The biggest benefit here is that you can download a sample first, to make sure you like the book. Also, it’s fantastic for travel, since you can take as many books as you want without the heft. E- books are also cheaper than hard copies by about half. The drawback is that you can’t share the books. I’m hoping that someday they will rent e-books.

Letting books go

If you donate books to your library, don’t expect to find your copy on the shelves later. Most donated books are sold to raise funding for the library, a good thing. Also, almost nobody wants old encyclopedias or dictionaries. To recycle hardcover books, the covers and glue binding must be removed first, but old paperbacks can be tossed right into the bin (recommended if they are raggedy or heavily underlined).

There are lots of people out there creating art and furniture out of old hardcover books, so if it pains you to recycle a book, put them on Craigslist or freecycle. Good-looking hardcover books are also great for staging homes for sale.

Magazines

The key to keeping up with magazine clutter is to clip any articles of interest and recycle the bulk of the magazine (which is mostly advertising). The other important habit to develop is to let yourself toss a magazine that is more than two months old. News publications are meant to be fresh and the information they offer is often repeated. You won’t miss much by letting old issues go. Most of the information is available online as well.

CDs

Music is a little different. Although there are people who love to collect the physical album or CD and its accompanying liner notes and packaging, for most of us, the music is all we want and digital downloading allows us to have it without the physical clutter. I’ve been getting all of my new music via download. I love being able to buy just the songs I want and not an entire album. However, with my old music, I just keep the CDs in binders (I like the Incase brand, available at Target). It makes more sense for me to pop in a CD if I want to listen to something older than to spend hours uploading all of my old CDs onto my computer. Getting the CDs out of their jewel cases and into binders saves a lot of room and I organized them alphabetically so they are easy to find.

DVDs

Unfortunately, DVDs are often viewed only once. Kids’ movies are an exception to the max — they are watched hundreds of times, as any parent or babysitter can attest. But for adult movies, the options now of renting movies directly to your TV via the Internet make it so easy to prevent DVD clutter. If you’re a movie junkie and TV series binger, an upfront investment in technology, like Apple TV, will save you money and clutter in DVD purchases down the line.

Share and swap

Use email or text to let your friends and family know when you are buying a new DVD, CD, magazine or book. Offer to share or swap once you’ve seen/listened to/read it and ask them to consider doing the same with their media. Keep the media circulating, not sitting and collecting dust and coffee mug rings.